A Short Story of Matthew the Cyclist
Published: August 2012: Updated: July 2013, August 2017
Partners: John Armstrong and Christine Kallir-Preece
This is the story of Matthew Kallir-Preece, a young man with a passion for cycling. It’s also a story of how a local cycling club embraced and supported Matthew on his journey to the national championships. We interview Matthew’s mother and coach and uncover the secrets of inclusive success.
This is the story of Matthew Kallir Preece, a terrific young man with a passion for cycling. It’s a story about passion, determination, persistence, attitude and success. These are just some of the ingredients that have made it possible for Matthew to enjoy and succeed as a cyclist.
Cycling is a sport that has opened new doors for Matthew. It has given Matthew a strong sense of belonging and independence. The feeling of belonging comes from being accepted as part of the local cycling community. He is fully included into that community in every sense of the word. Independence comes from the freedom of being able to get out there on the roads and cycle paths of his home town, Canberra in Australia.
It wasn’t always like this though. At one year old Matthew’s parents, David and Christine, were told that Matthew would never walk or talk due to his physical and intellectual disabilities. This prognosis was never going to be acceptable for David and Christine though. No way! David and Christine are strong parents with a passion to give Matthew the best possible opportunities in life.
In his early years Matthew wore a cycle helmet as a safety precaution as he started to improve his core stability and balance. This was an omen for things to come. As he moved onto a bike with outrider wheels he crossed paths with John Armstrong, a local cycling coach.
This meeting was a tipping point in Matthew’s journey as a cyclist. John Armstrong is a man of vision and a strong belief in human rights. He understands inclusion and the power of sport to make a real difference in the world. He could see the potential in Matthew and knew, from a coaching context, what needed to be done.
I interviewed Christine for this episode of The Inclusion Club. You’ll hear about the time Matthew stopped using the outrider wheels for the first time. Scary for Christine, but a real tipping point for Matthew.
As we have mentioned, important in this story is the role of John Armstrong. John is Executive Director of an organisation called Pedal Power. Pedal Power is a community organisation in Canberra with an objective to get more Canberrans cycling, more often, for a better community. As often happens when inclusion really works, it takes the vision and persistence of key individuals to make it happen. There is no doubt that John Armstrong is a key individual here.
Here is his short version of the story:
John is quite modest about his role here but he has played a major role in Matthew’s journey with cycling.
You may have heard or know of similar stories to this in the past. But there are important lessons for inclusion here that are worth reminding ourselves of.
First, acceptance and inclusion into a local community for a young person with a disability doesn’t happen by accident. It can hinge on a few important and connected factors, such as, the strength and determination of parents like Christine and David and the vision, skills and attitude of someone like John.
Second, these factors need to overlap, as they have done here for Matthew’s benefit. There was no guarantee that this overlap of characters and personalities would make inclusion happen. They may not have liked each other! They may not have had the same vision for Matthew! The cycling community may not have accepted Matthew as they have! But they did.
Finally, of course, Matthew is a young man that simply loves cycling as a sport. He loves the community he is now a part of and the community loves to have him there. Again, there are factors at play here that have made this happen. As John said, this is a story about inclusion and when it works this well, it’s a great thing!
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About the author: Peter Downs
Founding Director - The Inclusion Club
Peter is Founding Director of The Inclusion Club and Manager of Play by the Rules – a national initiative to promote safe, fair and inclusive sport. Peter has worked for over 25 years in the field of inclusive sport, disability sport and physical activity including 17 years managing the Australian Sports Commission’s Disability Sport Unit. In 2013 Peter was fortunate enough to receive a Churchill Fellowship to study models of best practice in inclusive sport and physical activity.